If you hear a falsehood enough over a period of time you come to believe it to be true; after all if it wasn’t true then why would so many be saying it is so if it wasn’t!
Accordingly, those who make policy that serves special interests or an ideology fabricate a justification (for doing so), making the illogical seem quite logical and factual. In order to gain support for their logical fallacy they initiate a propaganda campaign to sell others on the idea. After a time hearing this story even the initiators themselves become quite convinced of the truth and accuracy of the falsehood.
Currently there are several such active campaigns. In education reform, the selling of Waiting for Superman is one such example. It is the notion that the quality of our education system will improve if we turn attention to better results, better testing and accountability. Though preposterous, it has become quite popular. Another is the idea that austerity will reduce the national debt and mysteriously produce jobs thus eventually lowering the unemployment rate is a logical fallacy. In healthcare, selling the notion that vouchers payable to private insurance is equivalent in services received under Medicare is yet another related fallacy.
The inherent fear that these stories instill, as with all fears, stops people in their tracks—it stops them from actually thinking. Even though in reality there is no bogyman (that it is all fabrication) the story becomes so viral that its illogical nature is perceptible to only but a few. Predictably, consumed by fear and absent of any critical thinking by the citizenry, there is a ground swell of support for a foundationless course of action—one designed to benefit a few.
In the case of unemployment, the fear that corporations aren’t adding enough to the bottom line—no amount is ever enough—or that uncertainty about taxes or the rising deficit is the bogyman keeping otherwise reasonable people from taking responsible action. Paul Krugman calls this government inaction against unemployment learned helplessness. This is a nice way of saying it is just plain foolishness and quite sad.
It is sad that we allow ourselves to be governed by fear, sad that ideology of special interests trumps common interest (and common sense). There is little doubt we have fear and not the will to push it aside.
Fear stops people from thinking and tends to cause them to latch on to logical fallacies dressed up as fact thus ignoring or denying the merits of the very thing that could help them. Keeping us thinking in either/or terms and limiting us to a world comprised of immediate short-term fears—yes the very concerns that the bogyman creators want—reduces the likelihood that we will develop an understanding and make informed decisions. With the bogyman ruling the day, we will come to rue what we have allowed.